As companies start planning to return to work, a significant number of employees want a model where they have the flexibility of working from anywhere. Forward-looking leadership teams are leaning into hybrid workplace models that create better work/life balance, increased productivity and better collaboration, says Nick Iovacchini, CEO & co-founder, KettleSpace.
As vaccinations are scaling around the world, our country is seeing yet another shift in how we work. Early in the pandemic, many of us have struggled to adapt to remote ways of working (mostly from home). Although remote work has its benefits, many of us have started to experience WFH fatigue; many people are stressed, overworked and generally burnt outOpens a new window .
As we move toward reopening, 55% of UOpens a new window .Opens a new window SOpens a new window .Opens a new window workersOpens a new window want a different model for how and where they work, and 40% say they would consider quitting their jobs if they weren’t offered some form of remote work flexibility. While this doesn’t represent an insignificant amount of change and effort, forward-looking leadership teams are leaning into this and are willing to adapt to find a new equilibrium. With the right approach, tooling, and data, leadership and employees can work together to achieve a new paradigm that balances employee desires, leadership needs, productivity, and resource allocation.
What do workers want today, actually? A balance â€”Â a measure of control over where and how they work. This means that the future is a fluid model offering a combination of remote and in-office work. These approaches can take a number of various shapes, but collectively we call them â€œhybrid models.â€ And hybrid models will fundamentally change the way companies operate, how employees experience work, and how business leaders optimize the fixed office footprint. Many employers are even using the promise of the hybrid model as a talent acquisition advantage.
The companies that can figure out the right balance, implementation (using a combination of tech and data) and management of a proper hybrid model will have the edge in talent sourcing and retention over time.
Here are three ways a smart hybrid design creates a better employee experience:
1. Better Work/Life Balance
Work-life balance goes hand-in-hand with an employee’s mental health. Many of us are pretty plugged in, checking email and slack well beyond normal working hours. However, not having to work in the office every day frees employees from being physically tethered to their job at all times. In turn, it enables business leaders to readjust their expectations of employees, especially those that have hit a psychological wall. This rebalancing creates a more sustainable way ahead for both employees and employers. An effective hybrid model shows employers that productivity doesn’t slip; in fact, offering workers autonomy over their time can even boost productivity as well as morale.
Returning to the office also means restoring a sense of normalcy and routine, reminding employees what things were like before the pandemic. At the same time, offering multiple work options can alleviate common stressors like the daily commute, missing family milestones, or lacking personal time. People enjoy having the latitude in choosing their work environment, and switching it up can lead to greater creativity and better quality work.
Perhaps most importantly, hybrid models can prevent people from feeling isolated. One of the biggest losses workers suffered due to the pandemic was not being able to see and emotionally connect with their coworkers on a daily basis. Even while they were able to stay connected through technology, for many, it was not an adequate replacement for face-to-face interactions. Americans report the highest levels of happinessOpens a new window when they spend six to seven hours a day socializing; being able to see and work with teammates is beneficial for mental health. Working from home full-time might even be more productive for some, but the lack of vital interaction is a heavy downside.
2. Increased Productivity
At the beginning stages of the pandemic, where work started to go fully remote, there was fear that workers would be less productive with less oversight. In reality, that just has not been the case, as working remotely has, in fact, increased productivity for many organizations. A PwC studyOpens a new window shows that employees feel more productive now than they did last year (34% vs. 28%), and more executives agree that productivity has improved (52% vs. 44%).
The key to hybrid work being productive is trust between employers and employees. Those that micromanage or monitor remote workers may actually undermine one of the biggest upsides of enabling remote work. That lack of confidence impacts employee morale, which leads to lower productivity and engagement. But when employees are trusted to work from home with little oversight, their productivity will increase. This same logic holds when it comes to increases in employee engagement, according to Gallup. Teams with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable than companies with less engaged employees.
The hybrid model supports productivity when workers actually do return to the office as well. A physical office is often cited as a better work environment to accomplish certain tasks. That will be the case when people return in-person to work for an employer that has established trust in a flexible model. The confidence that work can be performed well from any location fosters a sense of autonomy and purpose that places less pressure on constant oversight by management. Again, it all comes back to balance.
3. Better Collaboration
One of the biggest changes brought by the move to â€œhome officesâ€ was the impact on collaboration. Physically working together builds trust among colleagues, and occupying the same space fosters a sense of social connection and collaboration. All of these factors are instrumental in building a thriving culture.
During the lockdown period, many colleagues were no longer able to meet face-to-face, which changed or limited how they worked together, especially on tasks requiring multiple participants. However, at the same time, there was more connectivity with coworkers in offices far away, which was a plus for many teams.
When orchestrated with the right system, frameworks, and data, a smart hybrid model can bring out the best in workers, who are more likely to report a positiveOpens a new window impact on creativity, relationships, and problem-solving. That’s because it allows a mix of in-person collaboration and autonomous work at home. Additionally, cross-collaboration in a hybrid structure enhances efficiency without any negative impact on the quality of work, as well as an increase in innovation by bringing different perspectives to the table.
Work has irreversibly shifted due to the pandemic. McKinsey reports that 90% of all companies anticipate being some form of hybrid going forward. However, nearly 70% still don’t have a plan or the necessary infrastructure to implement a successful hybrid model. There’s no doubt organizations will have different strategies on how to implement a hybrid; this isn’t going to be a â€œone size fits allâ€ situation. Instead, the pandemic has shown us both the positives and negatives of remote and in-office work. It will be up to innovative companies to pave the path forward in figuring out how to combine the pros and the cons in the best way possible. Those that do will have a leg up on the competition when it comes to the all-important task of attracting and retaining top talent while at the same time creating productivity, engagement, and ROI advantages.